ALASKA overcame June Mar Fajardo’s most dominant performance yet, hacking out a 103-97 victory over San Miguel Beer to fortify its bid for an outright semifinal berth in the Smart Bro-PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
The Aces saw the reigning league MVP record a new career-high of 43 points on top of 20 rebounds, but still hung tough against the Beermen in a finals rematch that lived up to its billing.
The Aces thus grabbed their eighth win in 10 games for a share of second spot, while putting a halt to the Beermen’s seven-game winning streak, derailing SMB’s own bid for an outright Final Four berth in the process after finishing the eliminations with a 9-2 win-loss record.
“We haven’t figured out how to stop June Mar, but the important thing is we got the win that put us in a good place in the standings,” Aces coach Alex Compton said. “I’m proud of the guys’ effort.”
Sonny Thoss submitted a team-high 18 points, but it was Chris Banchero and Vic Manuel who delivered the biggest baskets down the stretch.
Calvin Abueva was his usual energetic self, tallying 17 points, 11 boards, and five assists he as shrugged off an elbow to the face from Ryan Araña at the end of the first quarter and a hard fall in the payoff period.
The Aces built a 12-point lead late in the third quarter, but saw the Beermen mount a comeback and even take the lead, the last at 94-93 after a Chris Lutz jumper from the right corner with a little over a minute left.
Manuel, however, stopped the bleeding with a one-handed slam that sparked seven unanswered Aces points that put the outcome beyond doubt.
“There was zero feeling of comfort when we were up by (double digits),” Compton said. "Whenever we play a strong team like that, the lead is only safe when the game is over."
ALASKA 103 – Thoss 18, Abueva 17, Banchero 17, Manuel 12, Baguio 10, Jazul 9, Menk 6, Casio 5, Baclao 2, Dela Cruz 2, Dela Rosa 2, Exciminiano 2, Eman 1, Hontiveros 0
SMB 97 – Fajardo 43, Cabagnot 19, Santos 10, Lutz 8, Tubid 6, Espinas 5, Heruela 2, Omolon 2, Ross 2, Arana 0, De Ocampo 0, Lassiter 0, Reyes 0
Quarterscores: 16-19, 40-37, 74-64, 103-97